ACU maintains strong relationship with our Papua New Guinea counterpart, Divine Word University, in helping their academics reach a greater student population through developing Technology Enhanced Learning courses.
Papua New Guinea has a strong need to educate its population to become less reliant on expensive and transitory ‘outside’ expertise. This is evident in just one example of government schools in outlying districts not having qualified teachers available to instruct students, or if they do, of teachers having class sizes in the hundreds. To this end, Divine Word University (DWU), requested assistance from ACU in helping their academics develop the capabilities to design and deliver fully online courses to reach student populations unable to attend on campus classes.
Despite the limitations of network bandwidth, literacy and numeracy levels in current student cohorts, and having no centralised academic development and support structures, there are many reasons for optimism, not least the community spirit and energy encountered by ACU’s Learning and Teaching Centre Educational Designer, Michael Sobek and eLearning Advisor, Andrew Hill during a recent visit. ‘We were impressed by the commitment of academics to their University mission’, Andrew said. ‘And their thirst for developing the knowledge and skills required to teach engaging and active learning content was truly heartening’, Michael said.
Working with a core volunteer group of twenty academics, Michael and Andrew consulted with each individually to examine the unit they were to be teaching and to understand the current level of knowledge and skills within the team. They found a high level of academic rigour, but a little trepidation about teaching a cohort with whom contact would only be virtual.
At a Q&A session and follow up workshop the LTC staff introduced Constructive Alignment and the asynchronous Moodle tools and rubrics which could provide active learning engagement with the concepts they are teaching in a low bandwidth environment. Further techniques in developing teaching content in interactive HTML format (including Book and Lesson activities) will provide a solid foundation to build on as mobile infrastructure is further developed across the country.
The visit and knowledge exchanged built on the long relationship already developed between ACU and DWU, and was evident in the hospitality and collegial atmosphere extended during the time spent in their academic community. The visit provided a silver lining for the staff, with the volunteer group of twenty growing to forty-two by weeks’ end as the teachers realised what was actually possible to achieve through facilitating students in active learning designs and having the reassurance that their skill levels are able to elevate their teaching into the cloud.